The Christian Democratic Party, the fourth biggest party in the lower house, elected a new leadership at its party conference in Brno on Saturday. The party's new chairman is senator Jiri Cunek, a politician whose name made headlines nationwide when as mayor of Vsetin he evicted several hundred Romany rent defaulters from the town centre in mid-October. A Roma organization is pressing charges of racism against him and some two dozen Romanies turned up to protest against his election outside the Brno conference hall. On the other hand there are many who praise senator Cunek for the decisive manner in which he dealt with rent-defaulters and observers say this may have helped him win a seat in the senate. Senator Cunek has called for party reform and his election to the post of chairman is expected to give the party a new direction.
There has been speculation as to the position of Jiri Paroubek, leader of the Social Democrats, following Thursday's announcement that another party deputy wanted to leave the deputies group in parliament. This would undermine the party's position in government talks. In recent weeks there have been signals that the party is divided over whether it should go into the opposition of fight for a place in government. There has even been speculation that the former party boss Milos Zeman, who is no longer active in politics, has been trying to organize a putsch against the current Social Democrat leader. Mr. Zeman has rejected the idea as nonsensical.
The mother of a three year old boy who was killed when he fell out of a moving train earlier this year was found guilty of negligence. She received a one year suspended sentence in view of the fact that she is bringing up another underage child. The woman sent the little boy to the toilet unattended while she was tending to her daughter.
Talks on forming a new coalition government continue without the Green Party which announced its decision to withdraw from the talks on Friday because their programme priorities were allegedly not being taken into account. According to a press report released by the Social Democrats the three remaining parties - the Civic Democrats, Social Democrats and the Greens - are now discussing reforms in the areas of health care and security.
A fifth of Czechs believe that only men should have the privilege of higher education. A poll conducted by the CVVM agency indicates that 18 percent of Czechs, mainly older people, still believe in the male-female division of labour according to which the man is the breadwinner and the woman's place is in the home. Despite this surprising outcome, the number of women graduating from Czech universities is on par with that of male graduates and the vast majority of Czech women work.
Health Minister Tomas Julinek has said two committees of experts will be set-up to investigate circumstances at separate hospitals that employed alleged serial killer Petr Zelenka. On Friday the health minister visited one of the hospitals, the site where the murders took place. The accused has admitted to killing patients using lethal doses of the drug heparin in one of the country's worst serial murder cases. No murders reportedly took place at the second facility in Jihlava, where Zelenka was employed for only a short period. Controversy has surfaced in Mr Zelenka's case, over whether officials at the Havlickuv Brod hospital did enough to speed up involvement by police.
Others figures released by the office reveal that unemployment in the month of November dropped by a tenth of a percentage point to 7.3 percent - the lowest unemployment figure in the last five years. Currently, 400,044 people are listed as out of work. Analysts contribute the drop in numbers partly to, for example, recent graduates finding first-time employment.
The Green Party led by Martin Bursik has withdrawn from negotiations on a four-party government. The party's leader announced the decision on Friday. Mr Bursik indicated that the Greens were unsatisfied that their programme priorities had not made it into the draft proposal put forward by the Civic Democrats, titled the "magnificent seven reforms". Mr Bursik made clear he would prefer the right-of-centre Civic Democrats - leading the talks - to return to an earlier three-party proposal with his party and the Christian Democrats. But, such a coalition would not have a guaranteed majority in the lower house. The current attempt by politicians to form a viable government is the second since elections proved inconclusive in June.
The lower house will continue debate on a bill that would make it
legally easier to hold early elections in the Czech Republic. The draft
amendment was passed in a first reading on Friday. If eventually passed
into law, the bill will allow Czech lawmakers - and ultimately the
president - the option of dissolving parliament following a
government's resignation, in order to pave the way for early elections.
Any such move, however, would require sufficient political will. As
proposed now, the legislation would give the president the right to
dissolve the lower house only if the move were approved by a majority
of the country's two hundred MPs. Deputies, though, are aiming to make
the conditions more strict so that the decision would require a
constitutional majority, that is three-fifths of deputies in favour.
Deputies are also expected to debate a provision lowering the number of MPs in the lower house from 200 to 199, a measure intended to prevent deadlock in the chamber.
The Czech Statistical Office has announced that Czech economic growth hit 5.8 percent in the third quarter of 2006, a slight slowing down compared to the second quarter's 6.0 percent. Analysts had expected growth to slow more sharply, but high consumer spending - up 4.0 percent compared with the same period last year - continued to boost the economy; investments also increased with exports continuing to outdistance imports.
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